Are you planning your first trip to Disney World? Or possibly your first trip there since you were a kid yourself? When I finally went back for an actual trip in 2015 over 15 years after the previous trip, I couldn’t believe how much Disney World had changed. I went for a week and probably managed to see under 15% of it.
1. Decide Which Time of Year To Go & Decide On A Budget
If you have flexibility, check the crowd calendar. If you don’t, make sure you book your plane tickets and figure out hotel reservations AT LEAST 8 months in advance to avoid paying exorbitant prices. Personally, my favorite time of year at WDW is Halloween, Christmas, and the Food & Wine Festival; so I go annually at the end of October/early November. My daughter is 4 so it’s still an option, but it’s probably not going to be possible once she’s in elementary school.
2. Decide Which Park You’ll Be Visiting Every Day
Figure out which day you’ll be spending at which park. Keep in mind the fact that Disney World is 40 square miles, about the size of San Francisco. I generally use TouringPlans to gauge the expected crowds by day and plan my trip around that.
3. Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR)
ADRs are hard to come by, especially for locations that offer character dining. You can start to book dining reservations 6 months before your trip, which by 2 months before your trip can help you figure out which Fastpasses you’d like to book. Booking dining reservations that far in advance may sound nuts to you if you’ve never been to WDW, but trust me – I learned this the hard way. If you intend to go to two of the toughest places to get a table at – Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table, you will need to figure out what precise day you will be able to book ADRs for the first day of your trip and reserve your table at 7am EST that day. And then you’ll need to repeat the process daily until the last day of your trip.
Regardless of what time of year you go, there are a number of rides that will ALWAYS command a long wait time. Enter the FASTPASS+. These will be useful, but you will need to do the same thing I recommended with the ADRs and figure out what precise day you will be able to book your first set of Fastpasses for the first day of the trip and secure the hardest ones to get.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Peter Pan’s Flight
Frozen Ever After
Toy Story Midway Mania!
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
5. Study the Maps
The parks are pretty huge. It can take you 20mins to get from one side of a park to the other, and more when there’s a lot of people traffic. It’ll be much easier for you (and on your little ones’ feet) to plan your day around your fastpasses and ADRs. There are apps and websites like my personal favorite, TouringPlans, that will help you plan out your day by breaking down your trek between rides and wait times into minutes. It’ll maximize the use of your limited time at Disney World and cost only a small fee of under $15 for a year of access.